Why study this book?
Some of the most beloved passages of the Bible are found in the book of Matthew, including the Sermon on the Mount and many of the parables, teachings, and miracles of Jesus Christ. Studying this book can help students become familiar with the ministry and words of Jesus Christ and can strengthen their testimonies of Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world and the Promised Messiah spoken of by all the holy prophets.
Who wrote this book?
Matthew, also known as Levi, the son of Alphaeus, is the author of this book. He was a publican, or tax collector, before his life changed forever when he responded to Jesus Christ’s invitation to follow Him. (See Matthew 9:9; Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27–28; Bible Dictionary, “Matthew.”) Following his conversion, Matthew became one of the Savior’s Twelve Apostles (see Matthew 10:2–4). As an Apostle, Matthew was an eyewitness to many of the events he described in his record. This is supported by the title given to his Gospel in the Joseph Smith Translation: “The Testimony of St. Matthew.”
When and where was it written?
We do not know precisely when the book of Matthew was written, but it was likely written in the second half of the first century A.D. We do not know where Matthew wrote this book.
To whom was it written and why?
Matthew appears to have written to a Jewish audience to show that Jesus Christ fulfilled Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah (see Bible Dictionary, “Matthew”). As Matthew recounted the life, words, and deeds of Jesus Christ, he frequently referred to Old Testament prophecies and used the phrase “that it might be fulfilled” (for example, see Matthew 4:14; 8:17; 13:35; 21:4).
In his Gospel, Matthew employed the term “Son of David” 12 times as testimony that Jesus Christ was the rightful heir to King David’s throne and the fulfillment of messianic prophecies. Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus Christ traces His lineage through David, Judah, and Abraham (see Matthew 1:1–3), demonstrating Jesus’s right to rule and His role in fulfilling God’s promises to Israel.
What are some distinctive features of this book?
Though a large amount of Matthew’s material is also found in Mark and Luke, about 42 percent of Matthew’s Gospel is unique. A major theme in Matthew is that Jesus Christ came to establish His kingdom on the earth. Matthew mentioned “the kingdom of heaven” numerous times, and he is the only Gospel author to have included teachings of Jesus that mention the “church” (see Matthew 16:18; 18:17).
The Gospel of Matthew also helps us see parallels between the ministries of Moses and Jesus Christ. For example, both were saved as infants from a king’s attempt to slay them (see Exodus 2:1–10; Matthew 2:13–18), both came out of Egypt, both delivered God’s law on a mount (see Exodus 19–20; Matthew 5–7), and both came to deliver their people.
Matthew 1–4 Matthew sets forth the genealogy and birth of Jesus Christ. Wise men seek the King of the Jews. Guided by dreams, Joseph takes Mary and the child Jesus to Egypt and later to Nazareth. John the Baptist preaches the gospel of repentance and baptizes Jesus Christ. The Savior is tempted in the wilderness. He begins His mortal ministry by teaching and healing.
Matthew 5–7 Jesus Christ delivers the Sermon on the Mount.
Matthew 8–12 The Savior heals a leper, calms a storm, casts out devils, raises Jairus’s daughter from the dead, and gives sight to the blind. Jesus Christ gives the Twelve Apostles authority to do as He has done and sends them out to preach the gospel. Jesus proclaims that John the Baptist is more than a prophet. The Savior heals on the Sabbath.
Matthew 13–15 Jesus teaches using parables. John the Baptist is executed. After the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus and Peter walk on the Sea of Galilee. Scribes and Pharisees question Jesus.
Matthew 16–18 After Peter testifies that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior indicates that He will give the keys of the kingdom of God to Peter and the Twelve. Jesus Christ is transfigured on a mountain, where Peter, James, and John receive priesthood keys. Jesus gives instructions to His disciples on how to guide the Church and teaches that God will not forgive us if we do not forgive others.
Matthew 19–23 The Savior teaches about the eternal nature of marriage. He enters Jerusalem and cleanses the temple. Through the use of parables, Jesus exposes the evil intentions of the Jewish leaders who oppose Him. He mourns over Jerusalem’s future destruction.
Matthew 26–27 Jesus eats the Passover meal with His disciples and introduces the sacrament. He suffers in the Garden of Gethsemane and is betrayed, arrested, tried before Jewish and Roman authorities, and crucified. He dies and is buried.
Matthew 28 The resurrected Savior appears to His disciples. Jesus commissions the Apostles to take His gospel to all nations.